There’s nothing inherently cutesy about traffic commands. But when local artist Mike Bennett started reminding people to pay attention behind the wheel, Portlanders were both charmed and prompted to drive more carefully.
After noticing an uptick in traffic through his quiet residential neighborhood, Bennett—who’d spent the entire pandemic creating art to display in front of his house—designed a few custom lawn signs urging drivers to slow down. Each notice incorporates a notoriously torpid critter like a sloth, snail or turtle. He’s since expanded his repertoire by including enough characters to make the world’s most lethargic basketball team: Chameleons, inchworms, koalas, banana slugs, stegosauruses and manatees have all joined the lineup.
The signs went viral last year. Now more than 4,000 are posted around Portland, and it’s easy to see why. They’re bizarrely pleasing, with the kind of winsome, cartoonish sensibility you’d expect from a preschool teacher turned full-time artist.
For Bennett, that’s kind of the whole point. He makes art that appeals to the inner child. Today he’s working on a new project: creating an immersive, walk-through dinosaur museum.
“I feel like when I’m coming up with ideas, I’m often thinking about what my parents would have taken me to and trying to emulate that, as best I can, with paint and plywood,” Bennett says.
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